films seen
average score
China - 71 years old
Alive and kicking
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Chen is a very competent fifth generation director who handles both rural dramas and big fantasy epics with deceptive ease. One of the few who survived the big millennial shift in China, resulting in a rich, varied and satisfactory oeuvre.


Legend of the Demon Cat

2017 / 129m - China
Fantasy, Mystery
Legend of the Demon Cat poster

Kaige Chen builds upon his previous film and delivers a magnificent fantasy/mystery. The plot is laid out step by step, progressing calmly and deliberately, but it's the visuals that blew me away. The shoddy CG is kept to a minimum this time around, the rest is simply eye-wateringly beautiful.

Monk Comes Down the Mountain

Dao Shi Xia Shan
2015 / 123m - China
Comedy, Fantasy
Monk Comes Down the Mountain poster

Monk Comes Down the Mountain is above all a very amusing film. Chen made a light-hearted, fun and playful little romp, which rises above itself thanks to its tremendous production value.


Zhao Shi Gu Er
2010 / 122m - China
Sacrifice poster

Forever Enthralled

Mei Lanfang
2008 / 147m - China
Forever Enthralled poster

The Promise

Wu Ji
2005 / 121m - China
Fantasy, Action
The Promise poster

The Emperor and the Assassin

Jing Ke Ci Qin Wang
1999 / 162m - China
Drama, Romance
The Emperor and the Assassin poster

Temptress Moon

Feng Yue
1996 / 130m - China
Drama, Romance
Temptress Moon poster

The Battle at Lake Changjin

Chang Jin Hu
2021 / 176m - China
Action, War
The Battle at Lake Changjin poster

So, China found out that people love a good war flick. In recent years, there's been a notable rise of blockbuster war films, with big-name directors tied to them. The Battle of Lake Changing did even better and tied no less than three of the biggest directors in China to its production, just to manage its scope.

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The plot isn't all that interesting, except that for Westerners it might be somewhat novel to see the US army as the bad guys, whereas The Chinese soldiers are the heroes. You basically get three battles round and about Lake Changing, highlighting the bravery, perseverance and comradery of the Chinese army.

You can't escape propaganda in a film like this, and if that triggers you, it's probably best to ignore this film altogether. If on the other hand you just see good guys smashing up bad guys, the film certainly delivers in spades. The scenes with the tank in the little village are superb, the rest of the action is on point too, but three hours is a little much. It's not a great film, certainly not up to the level of the names attached, but I had fun with it.

My People, My Country

Wo He Wo De Zu Guo
2019 / 158m - China
Drama - Anthology
My People, My Country poster

There's a lot of flag-waving and chest-thumping going on here, but look past that and you'll find a decent anthology celebrating the achievements of the little people, helmed by some of China's prime directors. It was a little too sentimental and overdone in places, but it wasn't as terrible as I had initially feared it would be.

King of the Children

Hai Zi Wang
1987 / 106m - China
King of the Children poster

A nice and solemn little drama about a teacher moving to a small mountain commune in order to tutor the local kids. The pacing is rather slow, but the setting is beautiful, the cinematography is on point and the actors do a solid job. The token social critique isn't very subtle, but the film had enough other qualities to keep me engaged.

Water Gate Bridge

Chang Jin Hu Zhi Shui Men Qiao
2022 / 153m - China
Action, War
Water Gate Bridge poster

More Chinese war propaganda. The Battle at Lake Changjin must've been quite the success, or this endeavor was simply so huge that they figured a second film would be necessary to recoup the effort. If you're looking for 150 minutes of action and sentimentality, Hark, Lam and Chen have you covered.

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The plot is basic, we get another battlefield where the Chinese soldiers are allowed to show their bravery, their commitment and their selflessness. This time they're monitoring a bridge that is right on the escape route of the American troops. A strategic location that will form the center of another heated battle.

The action is pretty spectacular, but it does get quite messy, and the film doesn't really let up. And when it does stop, it's only to make room for some sentimental drama. It's a shame, as these directors are capable of making way better films. Let's just hope they're not turning this into a trilogy.

Caught in the Web

Sou Suo
2012 / 117m - China
Caught in the Web poster


He Ni Zai Yi Qi
2002 / 116m - China
Drama, Music
Together poster

A decent but very predictable drama. Performances are all over the place, the plot isn't all that interesting and characters remain quite stereotypical. It's not a terrible film though and Chen's baseline quality shines through from time to time, but I expected more from this film. Decent filler, nothing more.

Farewell My Concubine

Ba Wang Bie Ji
1993 / 171m - China
Drama, Romance, Music
Farewell My Concubine poster

The Volunteers: To the War

Zhi Yuan Jun: Xiong Bing Chu Ji
2023 / 141m - China
The Volunteers: To the War poster

Kaige Chen's latest blockbuster is exactly what you'd expect from a contemporary Chinese war film. It's blatant and overly long propaganda, masked by some expensive and chaotic war scenes. I wish he'd return to doing expensive genre flicks, but it seems Chen has other priorities right now.

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When the conflict between North and South Korea erupts into war, China takes note. Other nations are not allowed to intervene in the war, but word is that the US is planning to aid South Korea. If so, China is ready to back North Korea, to maintain a balance and safeguard their borders.

Apparently, this is just the first in a trilogy of films, though I hope the other parts are handled by different directors. This material is just way too cheesy for someone with Chen's credits. Apart from some action-filled battlefield scenes, it's a barrage of bad CG, queasy propaganda, and an excessive runtime. As a plain war flick, it's kind of decent though.

Yellow Earth

Huang Tu Di
1984 / 89m - China
Drama, Music
Yellow Earth poster

Kaige Chen is a director whose career got off to a rough start. Part of China's 5th Generation, his early work lacks the finesse of fellow director Yimou Zhang and is easily categorized as a bland and depressing arthouse drama. Yellow Earth is another film about the Chinese revolutionaries, full of poverty-stricken rural vistas and shrill Chinese folk songs.

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Yellow Earth is a widely celebrated film of course, everyone in the West loves it when China portrays itself as a nation full of country bumpkins who are trailing at least one century behind Western civilization. I've grown tired of these films and without the stylistic prowess of his contemporaries, there's just very little here for me.

Performances are mediocre, the soundtrack is a struggle and the landscape photography isn't as nice as it should've been. The entire film ends up being a test of patience, with only a handful moments that break free from its depressing reigns. At least it's not too long, but I prefer Chen's more recent output.

The Big Parade

Da Yue Bing
1986 / 94m - China
The Big Parade poster